Random Hearts is one of the few stumbles in director Sydney Pollack’s career. It’s a film with an idea that looks good on paper but when you put all the other ingredients together, it doesn’t gel that well on film. Both Ford and Thomas do their best, even when a few scenes are pretty excruciating to watch, and despite an impressive supporting cast, the film as a whole doesn’t work.
Genre(s): Drama, Romance
Image | R – 133 min. – $17.97 | March 22, 2011
Directed by: Sydney Pollack
Writer(s): Warren Adler (novel); Darryl Ponicsan (adaptation), Kurt Luedtke (screenplay)
Cast: Harrison Ford, Kristin Scott Thomas, Charles S. Dutton, Bonnie Hunt, Dennis Haysbert, Richard Jenkins, Paul Guilfoyle, Kate Mara
Theatrical Release Date: October 8, 1999
Features: Feature Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Theatrical Trailer
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 1.85
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
THE MOVIE – 2.5/5
Sydney Pollack’s somber romance-drama, Random Hearts, opened to downright awful reviews (it currently has a 15% rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences back in 1999 didn’t exactly embrace the Harrison Ford/Kristin Scott Thomas snooze fest with a $13.0 million opening weekend before free-falling.
Sergeant Dutch Van Den Broeck (HARRISON FORD) is a cop working in Internal Affairs. He’s a tough cop looking to take down the corrupt within the department. He lives the good life with a beautiful wife (SUSANNA THOMPSON) in a nice house.
Meanwhile, we also meet Congresswoman Kay Chandler (KRISTIN SCOTT THOMAS) who is running for reelection and is married to a lawyer (PETER COYOTE) and has a teenage daughter (KATE MARA). Their two worlds collide when his wife and her husband were on a flight to Miami that crashed and are suspected to have been having an affair since they were sitting next to one another and neither had a reason why they were headed there.
Now Dutch becomes obsessed with finding out what in their marriage was real and why she cheated on him while Kay Chandler is torn between her political career, finding who she really is and finding comfort and warmth with the only person who knows what she’s going through. Together they go on a journey, each on a similar path but in different ways, to finding the answers they desperately seek to move on with their lives.
That’s the basic outline but there’s a subplot concerning one of the men Dutch has been investigating, a detective (DENNIS HAYSBERT) who has been dealing drugs in a neighborhood and also is suspected of killing a key witness that could put him away. All this leads to a classic case of revenge which needless to say culminates with a gunshot and some major eye rolling.
I’ve always considered the late Sydney Pollack to be a quandary of a person taking acting gigs in smaller parts with occasionally sitting in the director’s chair from time to time, working mostly in the 1960s before settling down and doing a picture seemingly every 3-4 years, his last feature film being The Interpreter in 2005 (and the documentary Sketches of Frank Gehry the same year). Obviously winning the Academy Award for Out of Africa is his most known film and he has an eye and ear for creating mood but in regards to Random Hearts specifically, he seems to try too hard.
With this film the dour mood doesn’t elicit emotions but boredom instead. It’s not that I didn’t like either character or couldn’t feel sorry for them but what should’ve been a 90-minute picture exploded into 133-minutes of story with a bunch of filler I couldn’t have cared less about. I realize the subplot with the dirty cop was probably in the novel but that was one thing overplayed and should’ve been significantly cut down.
As for the cast, I’ll start with an amazing supporting lot that includes Jenkins, Bonnie Hunt, Paul Guilfoyle, Dennis “Best President Ever” Haysbert, Charles S. Dutton, Dylan Baker, Bill Cobbs, a then young/rising star Kate Mara (127 Hours) and the underrated/underutilized Peter Coyote who makes a brief appearance. Each one doesn’t have a heck of lot to do but push the characters or plot along on its due course but they do lend some weight to a movie that desperately needed it.
Now, I am torn on what to think of Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas. On the one hand, I do think the two had some good chemistry going and over the years they have proven to be capable actors, able to overcome less-than-stellar screenplays but some of the dialogue uttered by each one, mainly Thomas struggling to hold back her British accent, suffers the most.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 1.5/5
Image has taken over certain Columbia Tri-Star catalogue titles with this being one of their first. The Blu-ray contains the feature commentary with Sydney Pollack, a selection of Deleted Scenes (3:36; SD) and the Theatrical Trailer (2:33; HD). Unfortunately the 22-minute “HBO First Look” was not ported over (along with the pointless production notes feature).
VIDEO – 3.75/5
Random Hearts makes its debut on Blu-ray with a good yet average 1080p high-def video transfer. The movie is presented in its original 1.85 aspect ratio and while the picture looks clean, dust and/or scratches crop up every so often though nothing heavy enough to be distracting, it also seems a tad soft. There is however a fair amount of grain that gives the movie a certain film-like quality to it.
AUDIO – 3.75/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, like the video, is nice but nothing special. There’s not a whole lot of action so the only depth we do get comes from Dave Grusin’s (The Firm) forgettable score and some crystal clear dialogue via the center channel.
OVERALL – 2.5/5
Overall, Random Hearts is one of the few stumbles in director Sydney Pollack’s career. It’s a film with an idea that looks good on paper but when you put all the other ingredients together, it doesn’t gel that well on film. Both Ford and Thomas do their best, even when a few scenes are pretty excruciating to watch, and despite an impressive supporting cast, the film as a whole doesn’t work.
As for the Blu-ray, I will say that even though they didn’t port over the featurette (no doubt due to licensing issues), Image has provided a nominal upgrade over the DVD that as the right price – and if you like the film, of course – might be worth picking up.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2.